National Security Personnel System

Wed., August 10, 2005
12 p.m.-1 p.m. ET

GovExec Live!
Earlier this year, Defense personnel officials proposed replacing the General Schedule system, implementing a performance pay framework, streamlining the employee appeals process and scaling back collective bargaining. The new system would affect more than 700,000 employees. On June 7 Pentagon officials announced they would delay implementation of the National Security Personnel System and union officials say they plan to take legal action to block the new system as soon as the final regulations are sent to Congress.

Don Hale will respond to your questions and comments about the changes at the Defense Department, as well as the Bush administration's governmentwide personnel reform proposal. Submit your questions early or during the chat.


from Cleveland Ohio

Will AFGE be able to stop NSPS in time or will it be implemented and have to be stop in a court of law?

Don Hale

We believe that DoD officials have exceeded the authorities given to them by legislation passed by Congress. Saying that, it will be up to Congress to stop the implementation of NSPS when they recieve the final regulations. Congress will have a 30 day review period. We are hoping that Congress will force DoD officials to go back and abide by the legislative process. If Congress fails to take any action, we are prepared to challenge NSPS in the courts.


from Stoneville, MS

We constantly hear about these new pay bands that will replace the present GS system, but where do you find a listing for these bands? I have searched the internet and they seem to be quite a mystery!

Don Hale

There are NO details describing these pay bands nor will there be any in the final regulation. The details will come later through what DoD officials are calling "implementing issuances".


from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

I think that Joe Dolittle, Jane Doless, and John Donot have been drags on my organization for years. It is too much work for me to make them shape up or ship out. NSPS will make it easy for me to fire them or to gerrymander the organization to rif them. Isn't this a good thing?

Don Hale

This sounds like a statement made by a supervisor who refuses to supervise. Shame on you because you are the problem not the current system. I get crazy hearing managers describe "bad performers" that they have allowed to collect a pay check for doing little or nothing. Employees should be fearful of managers like yourself.


from Madison, WI

Hello. Out in the 'hinterland' here, we have been hearing that just about everyone below the GS-11 level may expect to see at least pay stagnation, and possibly a pay reduction. This is based on the concept of 'market-based' pay, which seems to mean the prevailing open market wage or salary for an equivalent job with local area employers or local or county government. Our wages are not out of line considering how much the FEHB program cost is compared to the open market or area government employers. For example, my wife's employer family plan costs $5.00 every two weeks, with the same visit and prescription copay, and far better dental and eyeglass coverage. Question: Will NSPS correct the vast inequality in health insurance costs and coverage, and cover 95% as private industry or local government employer plans do? Thank you.

Don Hale

NSPS does not permit DoD officials to make ANY changes to health benefits or retirement.


from Warner Robins, Georgia

I think that the unions made a tactical blunder by flooding the system with all those form letters, consequently diminishing the value of our comments. Well, Congress knows we hate the system, but some think it is just because of the anti-union issues involved. I think it would be more effective to tell Congress about the problems with the pay-for-loyalty problems that will compromise our duty to first protect the interests of the taxpayers. Either way, we have a chance to get them to dump NSPS, but I think we'd be more successful with the second approach?

Don Hale

It's not the Unions simply complaining that we don't want change but rather we are objecting to a proposed system that is unfair and will not hold managers accountable. We have been trying to educate Congress about our concerns with the proposed language in NSPS.


from Houston County, GA

The Bush people are telling Congress that we are only concerned about our survival and not about getting the job done. That is not true but it plays to what America thinks about government employees. America needs the unions to protect the employees. If the employees are not protected, then any management corruption, greed, and personal power will jeopardize our duty to protect those we serve - the citizens of the US. What do you and the other union presidents think about emphasizing that NSPS will make employees afraid to speak out against their bosses? If we emphasize that, then maybe Washington will scrap NSPS ... or at least ensure that union rights are kept in the new system. We get what we want and what America needs without it appearing that we are only concerned about ourselves.

Don Hale

One of our greatest concerns is that under NSPS employees will be less willing to speak out against wrongdoings and other abuses that they observe at work. We have repeatedly relayed our concerns to Congress and the media. We hope that our elected officials will take a hard look at what the future might be like with no whistleblowers' protection.


from Bremerton, WA

How will these changes effect the FERS employee and the amount of social security that is supposed to be part of our retirement?

Don Hale

There should be NO effect!


from Sparta, WI

If the Defense Department implements Pay for Performance and ties GS pay increases to performance ratings, what guarantees does an employee have that they will be rated objectively? How does an employee guard against a biased manager who rates them poorly based perhaps on sexual discrimination or some lack of favors from the employee? Also, unless there are safeguards, doesn't this system encourage favoritism? Seems like a breach of faith for employees who have already given many years of service. Perhaps this could be effective for new people coming into the system, much like the change between CSRS and FERs???

Don Hale

There are no guarantees that employees will be rated fairly or objectively, but even worse, employees will not even be able to challenge their rating to an independant third party. Appeals or grievances will stay within their organizations -- how is that fair and impartial? This will not only encourage favoritism, but it will pit employee against employee. One person's failure will be another's gain.


from Washington DC

Admittedly there are imperfections in the changes planned for the Defense Department personnel management system, but there are gaping inadequacies in the current system - why not be an active participant in the process rather than the child brought kicking and screaming to the table or the litigious threatening to file suit to block implementation? Are you saying there is nothing wrong with the current system? As a manager and long-time employee of the Department, I'm extremely frustrated that I can neither recruit or retain the most qualified candidates - primarily due to the personnel system and process. We must change something - what are your alternatives to what is being presented? and the status quo is not an answer!

Don Hale

For well over 2 years we have been trying to be active participants, however DoD has shut the door on our faces. We have made numerous counterproposals that included an expedient grievance and arbritration procedure, a pay for performance system that would be fair while holding managers accountable. When have continuously argued with DoD officials over concerns with the current system and the need to make changes. They have refused, instead it's been their way or no way. That's the problem. We would like a new system implemented that Unions will endorse because it is fair and equitable and will protect America.


from Virginia

Throughout the narratives, they refer to higher grades, SES, etc. Never is it mentioned about grades GS-8 and below. What about them? Why can't the GS schedule stay in place for them? It's very unlikely they would ever get raises at that grade of pay, and there are a lot of them.

Don Hale

All GS employees will go into a pay for performance system. You go first and then WG employees will go.


from Corpus Christi, Texas

This question is for the Executive branch of our government. I've voted republican for the last two terms for our current President. My question is why does the President always take the side of "big business" over workers right? This current NSPS system appears to going back in time where labor was unrepresented. Could it be that because several members of our elected Executive branch are heavely invested in defence contractors? This hard line "in your face politics with NSPS" buy this administration has forced me to open my eyes. I'm voting Democrat from now on. We the people should have civil liberties which include the right to fair and do process in collective barganing. Why are the Republicans trying to take that away? They are supposed to be for less Government and more freedom. Do they have it backwards?

Don Hale

YEAH, you have seen the light! You should be contacting those officials you voted for and express your concerns and frustrations. They can change all this.


from Washington, DC

I've heard/read a lot about what you believe is wrong with the proposed NSPS; but, I've heard/read no specific strategy or plan from you regarding what you would do to help enhance the performance of DOD employees thru pay. Can you let us know any specific, positive, constructive suggestions you might have about what you would do, if you were the Secretary of defense, to enhance an employee's (or to enhance teams' of employees) performance through pay? Thank you!

Don Hale

We have submitted to DoD, proposals that would create a pay for performance system that addresses our concerns. Most Union leaders agree with a performance-based system. We are not against the concept but feel we should be able to negotiate a system that meets the needs of management while providing REAL protections for employees.


from Randolph AFB TX

As a military spouse, I asked an official at a town hall metting at Randolph AFB in spring 05 how the spousal preference program would be effected. The answer I received is "we haven't decided yet." I continually read about NSPS but have yet to see any information about how spousal preference is effected.

Thank you,
Sharee Heineman

Don Hale

You are correct they haven't decided. Those specifics will come out later as "implementing issuances".


from Seattle, WA

Why does this administration continue to promote oppression and cronyism (which are the hallmarks of fascism and slavery) as a way to manage the loyal civil servants of this country? Or, put another way; why does this administration hate freedom in America?

Don Hale

Why is Congress and the American people allowing them to do this? Everyone should be concerned about the potential risks at Defense installations.


from Madison, WI

Good Afternoon. As part of the implementation of NSPS, many of the dual status (Guard and Reserve) technicians would like to see the retirement age reduced to age 55, as put forth in HR 783 and SB 639. Don, do you feel we could successfully add the language of these respective bills to the overall NSPS implementation. It would certainly clear out a large number of over 50 members, leaving room for up-and-coming younger members. Thank you.

Don Hale

NSPS does not allow for those types of changes, we have asked!


from reader

We have a war going on; the Stock Market is slow; how many millions of dollars is this whole thing going to cost taxpayers? Is the current personnel system broke? If it aint broke why fix it?

Don Hale

The approximate cost will be about $7 BILLION to implement over about a 4 year period. The current system could have been fixed instead of being tossed away.


from Kittery, Maine

How will pay for performance work in an organization structure such as the one I work? I am a resource from a technical code loaned to a project for up to a year and a half or more. Sometimes, split between projects or sent TDY to work. My supervisor of record is the one responsible for doing my performance appraisal and he and I rarely interface and usually when we do it's because of some unmet need of one of the project managers.

Don Hale

Hello, I'm originally from PNSY. We have tried addressing these concerns, but received no good answers. That's the problem. DoD won't discuss these issues. Tell your members of Congress.


from Atlanta, Georgia

If this new system survives will people under the old system already in a career ladder be grandfathered?

Don Hale

No they will not. Your progression will be built into the pay band you will fall under.


from Dixon CA


Could you tell us your thoughts about how NSPS will destroy the theory of working as a team and as a unit that DOD is built on. Will everyone now be out only for themselves to get the BIG money in Pay for Performance and let the weaker members of the team fail or fall behind.

Don Hale

The proposals in NSPS will have greater ramifications. Imagine employees working on, let's say, a nuclear submarine. Employees may very well be put in a position where if they make others look bad then they could recieve more of a raise. How does a team concept work under that scenario? What about policemen or firefighters who MUST rely on and trust each other? There are much better ways to address the concerns about the current system.


from Fresno, CA

Why bother? All of our comments are filtered by the union. If you don't like what we say, you delete it.

My questions would be: While AFL-CIO is losing power and membership, why does the AFGE hang on for dear life? Why does AFGE want to support a loser? Why should we take any of your actions seriously? The AFL-CIO is only interested in supporting democrat candidates and causes. They waste time passing resolutions about gay rights, etc., while rank and file workers and their families are in disagreement over these controversial issues. The AFGE is therefore thumbing its nose at conservative workers and busying itself fighting for liberal causes while we sit in horror, helpless to do anything.

Since the AFL-CIO and the AFGE are total failures when it comes to REAL programs that would help rank and file workers and their families, why not give this new program a chance? It couldn't get any worse.

And if you don't print all of my comments, don't bother to print any of them. Thank you. This is from a GS-5.

Don Hale

You really need to become better educated on what we stand for and what we are trying to do to protect workers and America.


from Indianapolis, IN

I have worked hard for 20 years, do everything by the book, am a high producer, have never left the bldg on the clock, never cheated on sign in sheet, yet I get low bonuses or none. Lazy, tattletale cheaters, who come to work late, if at all, and when they do come in, abuse the Internet or phone daily get $1,000 bonuses. So tell me how I am going to get a fair raise with piss poor management under this new system?

Don Hale

Bravo, the answer is it will only get worse.


from Tooele, Utah

What does NSPS have to do with National Security on our bases? Just gives the big boys more rights and takes away all of ours. SO Tell me again who the enemy is? WE ARE NOT THE ENEMY. WE SUPPORT OUR TROOPS. That is our job here. If this goes through we will no longer be able to do that.

Don Hale

From our view, NSPS does not enhance the ability of DoD to accomplish its mission. DoD just keeps on insisting that everything in DoD is related to national security. If that were the case, why are there so many contractors in the government?


from Tracy, CA

How and when will the Wage Grade employees filter into NSPS and how will they determine the pay scale

Don Hale

Wage grade employees will be brought in following implementation for the first 300,000 employees and certification to Congress that pay for performance works.


from Panama City, Florida

My question has to do more with the implementation. It appears that career fields are not being considered in the Tier structure. Example: Eglin AFB is in Tier 1.1, Tyndall AFB, is in Tier 1.3 (1-year later). The move to the new pay structure will include "step" increases that would have occurred under the GS pay scale. Employees at Eglin will see an increase in their pay that Tyndall Employees in the same career field will not see for another year. How is this pay disparity being addressed?

Don Hale

We have asked the same question of DoD and they can provide no reasoning for the tiers or how certain categories were selected. They don't care about the pay descrepancy and have no plan to address it.


from Canyon Lake, TX

I understand DOD discounted many of the comments received during the public comment period. I also understand that most, if not all the so-called public forums held with employees were a joke. I have also been told that DOD frequently told the unions during meet and confer that they remained at opposite ends of an issue and due to the rigid position of the administration, DOD would not consider adjustment of the proposed regulations.

So where did consultation, collaboration, and gaining input from employees and their representatives come into play?

Don Hale

Didn't really happen. All this was a sham to make Congress feel good about what it was going to do to 750,000 employees of the federal government.


from Any Federal Employee

I love the comments from "inside the beltway" particularly on what AFGE's strategy or suggestions would be to "enhance" my performance thru pay. My comment probably won't get on before this chat is over but let me just say this - I didn't come to the government to get rich - Anyone who believes that they must "pay" for a "outstanding federal employee" is fooling themselves. What sets us apart from private sector individuals "chasing the buck" (which is what we'll have under NSPS) is our loyalty and commitment to our jobs. DOD will lose that under NSPS - that's what makes us great. And I resent the implication that there are better performers out there than me.

Don Hale

My friend - this is what most of us working in DoD honestly feel. The current pay system and flexibilities if used, work and work well. Pay for performance systems can create work environments where now the focus is on one's self and not on our mission.


from Columbus, Ohio

What will be the costs associated with NSPS? It seems to me that our soldiers are dying because we can't get more troops there - probably because of money - doesn't it make sense to spend DODs money on winning with the insurgency rather than a new, untested, personnel system?

Don Hale

Makes sense to me to buy more armor than to give beltway bandits limited DoD resources to fix something that just needs a tune up.


from Terre Haute, Indiana

While the Government or OPM find ways of downsizing, downgrading, underpaying and blocking our collective bargaining rights and tools, the very things that were given to the Federal employee to stop work stoppages and or strikes have been negated. What will stop the Federal workforce from taking whatever action they deem or seem to be appropriate to counter this invasion?

Don Hale

I believe that we will only be stopped by our own unwillingness to continue to fight. Employees will not work under these conditions but everyone needs to voice their objections. Not only Union leaders but ALL employees. Maybe then Congress will listen and adress the concerns of DoD civilian employees.


from Salt Lake, Utah

How could there be no effect to my retirement if they have the right to reduce my pay by 10%.. That will effect my retirement will it not?

Don Hale

Under NSPS, DOD can reduce your pay by up to 10 percent. They can also lower pay bands and adjust market rates. If these are lowered or your pay is reduced as a result of your performance, these years would not count towards a high salary average for retirement purposes.


from HAFB, UT

I've worked for the government for 23 years and there is a pattern of implementation before most projects or plans are ready, which has an effect on all. If they are going to do this they should at least wait until they have something that will be fully functional once implemented. Instead of something that will take years to work the bugs out of and untold amounts of manpower wasted. I've never had to go to the union on an issue, but the need for a check and balance system is vital to the hard working employees. Will the union be able to slow this process down until it is at least a presentable option?

Don Hale

We have slowed this down, but elected officials need to hear from you. Employees can stop this, NOT Unions.


from Hemet, California

What chances do you give the NSPS being implemented? I have wrote to every elected Rep. in the area to try and stop the NSPS.

Don Hale

100 percent. NSPS has passed Congress and been signed into law. The difference now is if Congress forces compliance with the intent of the law, or let's DoD get away with murdering the civil service system.



I don't think is right to include the Cost of Living allowance as part of the pot of money that is going to be allocated for awards under NSPS. It's not right. Supervisors in general award money based on how they feel about an employee this includes not only work performance but personality.

Don Hale

To add insult to injury, under NSPS pay for performance, managment can split any pay increase between base pay and bonuses. Base pay increases would carry forward year to year, bonuses are a one shot deal.

The use of bonuses in this fashion will keep employees on the hook from year to year for raises, not be counted towards retirement, and will get taxed at a higher lump sum rate.

Some kind of wonderful.


from reader

How can you guarantee that people will not receive large bonuses based on favoritism? We see favoritism all the time now so what is going to change?

Don Hale

The unions can offer no guarantee of bonuses or basic pay increases under pay for performance. Neither will DOD. The proposed system is ripe with pay for patronage.


from Camp Hill, PA

If NSPS is challenged in court, what specifics of it will be challenged to stop it?

Don Hale

The current lawsuit is based on the process, or lack of it, that DoD used to design the labor relations portion of NSPS.

Any future litigation would have to be based on the final regulations which have not been released yet.


from reader

You clearly are not trying to help at all, rather just make incendiary comments that are based on half-truths. Why don't you tell the truth?

Don Hale

So what are the half-truths and more importantly, whose truth are you believing? As in everything, there are two or more sides to the story. AFGE has tried to look at this honestly and work with what we feel is a bad law.

We don't profess to have all the answers. But would appreciate it if DOD honestly listened and discuss any needed reasons for change.


from Sparta, WI

Is it possible under pay for performance for an employee who is in their last three years of service prior to retirement, to have thier pay become stagnated or remain at the same level?

If so, would this not limited the high three salary to the salary rate achieved three years prior to retirement?

Don Hale

The answer is YES to both parts.


from Stockton CA

Why are not more people talking about the effect NSPS will have on Vets!

Don Hale

The answer is simple. DoD keeps telling veterans groups, Congress, and employees that NSPS will have no effect on veterans. What DoD has proposed will change the status of veterans preference in practice and application in both hiring, and in retention during RIFS.


from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

When CSRS was replaced with FERS everybody after a set date was FERS. Why is the same principal applied here? With over 50% of the labor force expected to retire within the next 5-8 years this would be an ideal time to practice the same dated replacement to NSPS.

Why are they refering to our annual COLA as a pay increase like it was a raise and not an effort to remain in line with inflation? Why is the COLA going to be part of a Pay Pool for Permormance awards?

Will the performance pay also be monitored so an equal number of the various minority groups are rewarded with performance pay on the same percentage level as management likes to see in management positions?

Don Hale

The annual increase given federal employees while often referred to as a COLA is actually a General Pay Increase (GPI). While in reality, there is no difference, the rub is that this will be the money used to fund pay for performance.